Traditional Weavers of Guatemala: Meet The Authors

Learning to Weave

Deborah Chandler in Guatemala. Photo by Joe Coca.
Deborah Chandler in Guatemala. Photo by Joe Coca.

I first knew Deborah Chandler in about 1976 when she and her former husband were running a yarn shop in Boulder, Colorado, and I was publishing a magazine for handweavers. I had never seen a word she had written, but somehow there was that spark, and I invited her to write a column for Handwoven: “Your Weaving Teacher.” It was such a hit I think we were both surprised.

The charm of the column was that Deborah (Debbie back then) spoke directly to the interests, needs, and insecurities of beginning weavers with unpretentious, no-nonsense humor. She had a way of cutting through the technicalities of a very complex craft to the heart of the process and making it fun. Our publisher-author relationship developed and resulted in a book, Learning to Weave (under the Interweave Press imprint), which has sold more than 150,000 copies—a record for books of its type, I believe

Teresa Cordon. Photo by Joe Coca.

Long story short: Deborah gave me her dog, left the weaving world behind, joined the Peace Corps, worked in Honduras, then in Houston for the fair trade cooperative Pueblo to People that sold handmade products from Guatemala. Met Teresa Cordón, who was the field coordinator for Pueblo to People. Traveled in Guatemala. Eventually moved to Guatemala (I’m taking huge shortcuts—the full plot would be much more interesting) and became director of Mayan Hands which coordinates and supports the efforts of hundreds of Maya weavers. So I guess she didn’t really leave the weaving world behind at all.

Weaving a Book

In 2012, when I was working on Faces of Tradition: Weaving Elders of the Andes, the idea occurred to do a similar book to celebrate the weavers of Guatemala, who have sustained the finest textile traditions in Central America. Would Deborah do it? Sure. And she had the wisdom to invite Teresa to be her co-author.

On the Road in Guatemala. Photos by Joe Coca.
On the Road in Guatemala with Deb and Tere. Photos by Joe Coca.

What ensued was a three-year odyssey, literally. Deborah and Tere drove all over Guatemala seeking out the artisans, then drove all over the country again on two different occasions with Joe Coca and me and a pile of photo gear honing interviews and collecting images. Then Deborah drove up to a retreat in the cloud forest to write and write and write.

Deborah, Teresa, and Linda, weaving the book in Guatemala.
Deborah, Teresa, and Linda weaving the book in Guatemala. Photos by Joe Coca.


TraditionalWeaversThe weavers’ stories they have recorded are poignant, intriguing, information-packed. Reading them is like being there. (Would you like to be there? Deborah also guides tours.)

What I’ve just described doesn’t even touch on all the layers, nooks, and crannies of my near-forty-year friendship with Deborah, but I can tell you that doing a major creative project with someone who has been so much a part of your life is pretty fine. I feel lucky.

–Linda Ligon

Join Deborah and Teresa on the amazing odyssey that is Traditional Weavers of Guatemala: Their Stories Their LivesAnd be on the lookout for more inside stories and behind-the-scenes peeks from the authors themselves.


7 thoughts on “Traditional Weavers of Guatemala: Meet The Authors

  1. Sandy Dierks says:

    I loved your book and the feeling of value the weavers had in themselves and their traditions because of you writing it. We met at Lola and Manual home in Santiago this March when you were delivering the book to her as we happened by. They are old friends and whenever I come to Guatemala I try and see them. She proudly showed us her place in your book. I have one of her huipils and one of Manuals paintings. We traded as he wanted a living memory of his mother before she passes and I had a camera. Oh if ever you do another book, might I suggest my weaving teacher Martina Matzar, who is 84 now, of Santa Caterina Polopo and her daughters Petrona, Juana and Anna. Thanks you, Sandy Dierks

  2. Kathy Virag says:

    Can’t wait to buy this book. My passion has been (since the 1980’s) learning about and supporting the incredible Maya weavers/artisans of Guatemala.
    I first went to Guatemala in 1980 and was immediately drawn into the culture, the textiles, the ancient and contemporary history of this beautiful but troubled land. And later in 1985, i joined up with two other women who were beginning to get the word out about the country’s turmoil and hidden war and atrocities through their tiny non profit organization Mayan Crafts, Inc.. in Arlington Va. We marketed traditional weavings/handicrafts and promoted support of the weavers via a slideshow by Marilyn Anderson, and other educational materials such as a traveling textile exhibit. I traveled to visit Guatemalan refugee camps in Mexico in 1989, to see first hand the weavers continuing their craft, with Marilyn Anderson (a respected author and photographer in her own right) and my co worker Maria Elena. I continued the non profit up until the early 1990’s.
    This looks like it will be a stunning, important book!

    • Karen Brock says:

      Thank you for your important work in Guatemala and beyond. I think you will enjoy Traditional Weavers of Guatemala very much and hope it brings you good memories and inspiration.

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